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Thursday, 25 April 2013

Classic Film Review: Genevieve (1953)

Genevieve stars John Gregson as Alan McKim, the owner of the classic car of the title. He and his wife, Wendy (Dinah Sheridan), travel in Genevieve from London to Brighton for the antique car rally every year. This year she really doesn't want to go but relents to make him happy. Also going to the rally is Ambrose Claverhouse (Kenneth More), their brash friend and a man Wendy dated briefly before she married Alan. Ambrose brings along trumpet-playing Rosalind Peters (Kay Kendall) for company. Once they get to Brighton, though, relations turn sour and the trip back to London becomes a race where anything goes...

This is an enjoyable little British film that doesn't take itself too seriously and doesn't rely on stunts to enhance the race aspect. The situations that the two drivers get themselves into on the way back from Brighton stem from character and a desire to win. It's a gentle film but an amusing one. Although John Gregson plays the lead, I found him to be a little overshadowed by the other characters. Kenneth More's larger-than-life persona takes up a lot of screen time but the surprise of the film is Kay Kendall (I was shocked to learn she died six years after this film was made aged only 33). As Rosalind she's an excellent foil to Ambrose - along with her dog, that is. Dinah Sheridan also outshines Gregson in a quiet, undemanding way.

There are a couple of things to look out for with this one. Firstly, there's a small appearance by Joyce Grenfell as a hotel owner. Secondly, watch out for the band scene where Kay Kendall's character suddenly takes centre-stage. Finally, listen out for the incidental music which was played by the wonderful Larry Adler and fits the mood of the film perfectly.

Genevieve does meander a bit but it's not supposed to be a rip-roaring comedy. It's a nice and gentle film which had me vocally rooting for Alan and Wendy by the final ten minutes. Having said that, the ending's also a bit of a surprise. This is a perfect film for a lazy Saturday afternoon and worth it for the hotel scenes alone.

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